Nutrition expert exposes which burger is worse for your health: McDonald's or Five Guys

So you're jonesing for a burger, and because this is America, you've got choices. The Golden Arches await you at practically every stoplight, but then there's also Five Guys, which is known as a more "premium" place to score a juicy patty since their meat is always fresh-grilled (per Business Insider). So which chain offers a healthier burger?

In an interview with Mashed, Robin Miller, nutritionist, chef, and food writer, said that neither burger joint is exactly a mecca of wellness. "Let's get one thing clear: we're not comparing two nutritious foods here," Miller said. "The question isn't, 'Should I order the broccoli or the spinach?' We're evaluating fast food beef patties, piled onto white-flour buns. And don't even get me started on the toppings." Still, Miller was able to compare and contrast the calorie count, fat, and sodium between the two restaurants' burger offerings, as well as whether the ingredients used were fresh or processed.

Five Guys' meat is fresher but higher in calories

According to Miller, there are distinct differences between a patty at Five Guys compared to a patty at McDonald's. "Both establishments use 100 percent pure ground beef. Five Guys uses a blend of chuck and sirloin, and the hand-formed patties are fresh, not frozen. McDonald's transforms a combo of ground chuck, sirloin and round into machine-formed, flash-frozen patties," Miller explained. "Both places grill their burgers."

Comparing the nutritional numbers, though, such as calories and fat content, gets tricky. "Five Guys puts TWO patties on their buns and McD's starts with one," Miller explained. "The Five Guys sandwich with two, 'fresh, hand-formed patties hot off the grill' will cost you 844 calories, 43 grams of fat and 430 mg of sodium. One burger has 302 calories, so multiply that by two, and then add a 240-calorie bun," she explained. How does that compare McDonald's? According to Miller, you'll be eating fewer calories and less fat if you get your burger fix at McD's since a single patty has 250 calories and eight grams of fat. If we want to double those numbers to make it a true apples-to-apples – or burgers-to-burgers – comparison, Miller said, "choose two McDonald's burgers on your bun and, compared to Five Guys, you'll save 344 calories and 27 grams of fat."

The toppings at Five Guys are much more caloric

It's important to point out that at Five Guys, the burger is just the base."Since you can choose as many toppings as you want things can get ugly – er, uglier – pretty fast." Miller is a fan of fresh veggie toppings, like lettuce, tomatoes, and green peppers, but beyond that, "the toppings are pretty gluttonous – even the relish has high fructose corn syrup." One fan favorite at Five Guys is bacon, which adds 80 calories, and you'll probably want that with mayo, right? That creamy white stuff adds 110 calories. "Want cheese? That'll cost you another 70 calories. Now we're sitting down to 1,105 calories and 67 grams of fat - without fries and a milkshake!" Miller said. "You'd have to run 9.5 miles or climb 221 steps to burn it off.

The McDonald's menu isn't as customizable, but a fair basis of comparison for toppings would be to look at the McDouble, Miller said. "It has two patties, plus 'tangy pickles, chopped onions, ketchup, mustard and a slice of melty American cheese' for 390 calories, 19 fat grams and 920 mg of sodium," she explained, citing the menu description. "Do the math, and if you choose the McDouble over the Five Guys burger, you'll save 390 calories and 24 grams of fat. You could order TWO McDouble sandwiches for the calorie/fat price of ONE Five Guys burger. Clearly, I'm not suggesting you should!"

Both Five Guys and McDonald's burgers are dangerously high in salt

Miller said both burger havens go heavy with the salt shaker. She pointed out that a toppings-free Five Guys burger has 430 milligrams of sodium, one-third of the recommended maximum for the day. "Add the aforementioned toppings – bacon, mayo, cheese – and that number skyrockets to 1,170 milligrams – almost an entire day's worth," Miller said. She said McDonald's packs in even more sodium per burger. "And if you think the numbers are lower at McDonald's because their burgers are smaller, think again," she pointed out. "A McD's burger is 100 grams and the Five Guys burger is 94 grams. So, 'bout the same."

If you're mainly concerned about calories, not salt, you should reconsider your priorities, according to Miller. "Why care? Because excess sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke," she explained. "Is that patty delicious enough to make it worth the risk?"

Okay, we get it. Both Five Guys and McDonald's burgers aren't the kind of food you eat on the daily if you're not trying to star in your own version of Supersize Me. But what if your burger cravings just can't be ignored? "If you're a true Five Guys fan, and prefer their fresh, grilled beef to McD's frozen patties, choose their Little Hamburger,' with 540 calories, 26 grams of fat and 380 milligrams of sodium, "Miller advised. "Those aren't exactly 'little' numbers, but it's a healthier option."